“LEAVE ME BE!!! OR FACE A MOST MALEVOLENT WIZARDING!!” reads the fresh speech bubble hanging over the Wizard of Cary street’s head.
“The Wizard” is a mural looming above the GRTC bus depot at the intersection of Cary and Davis streets since the RVA Street Art Festival in 2013, but the speech bubble wasn’t installed until a couple weeks ago.
Shortly after the Greater Richmond Transit Authority announced it had sold the property for $9.12 million to local developers last month, the Wizard’s somber warning coincidentally accompanied the portrait at the soon-to-be demolished depot.
DKJ Richmond LLC purchased the bus depot property with their multi-million dollar bid and willingness to close the deal within 60 days. These factors helped them edge-out local real estate tycoons like Rich Johnson of the Wilton Cos. and H. Louis Salomonsky’s Historic Housing machine.
The artist who created the Wizard of Cary street, Mickael Broth, says he didn’t put the speech bubble there, nor does he know who did.
“I have no idea where it came from,” Broth said, “but I hear Daniel Radcliffe was in town, and he’s quite a wizard in his own right, so may-be he put it up.”
One thing is for certain, though. The exclamation expresses a popular sentiment among local residents that the property is too special to be converted into boilerplate apartments and a fast-food restaurant.
“I’m really trying not to be cynical here,” Broth said. “It’s hard not to assume that this will just be more condos.” GRTC officials expect the transfer of the property to be complete by mid-November, after the two-phase cleaning process mandated by the Department of Environmental Quality is finished.
The deal stipulates that the new owners must hold at least two meetings to solicit feedback from the public on the proposed redevelopment of the property, which DKJ co-founder Tom Dickey said are tentatively scheduled for October. But DKJ is under no real obligation to actually incorporate public feedback in its plans.
“All I know is that I come from a graffiti writer’s mentality, where you create something for the simple act of doing it, hopefully you get a picture, and you’re stoked if it lasts more than a day or two,” Broth said.
Although Broth’s wizard mural was brought to life during the Street Art Festival in 2013, the depot, or “bus barn,” was closed to the public shortly after when an on-duty security guard was brutally attacked by an unknown assailant.
A couple months later, a Change.org petition to “(transform) the GRTC bus depot into an innovative village for our community & creative class” surfaced, but fell 300 signatures short of its goal. Vestiges of this proposal are evident in community demands to retain some percentage of existing murals in DKJ plans.
These demands will definitely surface at the October input meetings, where Broth plans to defend his persecuted wizard, but whether or not they make an impact is still anyone’s guess.